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Claremont Club to close after 47 years

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

The community received another collective blow on Thursday when The Claremont Club abruptly announced that it will be closing permanently. The news broke in a statement from CEO Mike Alpert, which was first posted on the Club’s official Facebook page and later on The Claremont Club website.

“It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to inform you that The Claremont Club will be closing operations permanently as of August 1, 2020. This was not an easy decision for the owners of the Club to make,” the statement read.

Mr. Alpert said the loss of about 1,200 memberships during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting drop in revenue, left the owners with no alternative but to shutter the business.

According to its official history page the Club’s founder, Stanley Clark, purchased 100 acres in north Claremont in 1972 with the intention of building a tennis facility, and moved into an old stone house on the property. On July 13, 1973 he opened what was then called the Claremont Tennis Club with two courts. Apparently Mr. Clark was a bit of a showman because on opening day he hosted an exhibition match between tennis champion Bobby Riggs, who was 55 at the time, and Tracy Austin, who was still a child but would soon become a champion herself. The first members were Martha and Larry Hamilton.

In the 1980s the Club was expanded to include 29 tennis courts, a childcare center racquetball courts, a recreational pool, an Olympic size pool, a weight room and a room for group exercise like aerobics. Because of theses changes, Mr. Clark changed the name to The Claremont Club. In 1980 and 1981 the surrounding land was developed into housing, leaving 19 acres for the Club itself.

Mr. Alpert has been CEO for 23 years, which included a 23,000 square foot remodel and expansion in 2003 and 2004. The old stone house became a social lounge for members and guests.

The Club was also an important community hub for friends meeting for weekly tennis matches, to hosting innumerable events including business meetings and high school reunions. The Club also hosted serious competitive tennis including year-round USTA leagues, the Claremont Club Pro Classic and the California Interscholastic Federation’s individual and team championships.

TCC Nonprofit Foundation has helped people recover from cancer, including seniors and children and provides summer camp scholarships for students who cannot afford to attend otherwise.

The Club’s closure means the Perfect Step Paralysis Recovery Center, which is located at the southern side of the main fitness center, will have to find a new location.

For 13 years The Claremont Club has partnered with the Be Perfect Foundation, operating The Perfect Step which provides an improved quality of life for people with paralysis through intense activity-based recovery programs, education, training, research and development, according to the Perfect Step website.

“In my short business life, yesterday was the most unfortunate day I have experienced. The Claremont Club was more than just a community partner. The Club was like home and the staff like family. Mike is more than just a mentor he is like a father and someone I regard as a dear friend,” founder and president of the Be Perfect Foundation Hal Hargrave, Jr. said on Friday a day after the closing was announced.

He said it is hard to plan for the unforeseen but that the organization would immediately begin looking for an alternate location, hopefully in Claremont. “We will have to go through the process and continue to support the Club while reopening in a timely manner so we again get our clients the services they need.”

In July of 2007, Mr. Hargrave was injured in an truck accident that left him partially paralyzed. Six months later he began the non-profit Be Perfect Foundation to support people in the paralysis community and to aid in their recovery.

“Mike Alpert revealed his loving heart to me and to the Hargrave family, and took a leap of faith on a 17-year old kid who had just gotten injured by approaching Sue Hyland, the Clark family and the board, expressing his desire to build a paralysis center at the Claremont Club,” Mr. Hargrave said.

Back in April, The Claremont Club made national news when Mr. Alpert promised to keep his 260 employees fully paid during the initial months of the coronavirus if members agreed to continue paying their dues.

In early June, the Club reopened with many new restrictions, including fewer hours of operation and asking members to limit their stays to only two hours. However, with virus cases spiking in the region the health department ordered gyms to close again on July 13.

Mr. Alpert’s statement stated that the Club will reimburse members for any dues that have been paid as well as prepaid classes and summer camps. The repayments would be made “as-soon-as-possible” but no later than when the property is sold.

“We have been blessed to have had the most dedicated and talented employees and managers in the fitness industry. Because of their efforts, the Club has been recognized all over the world for being a leader in health club inclusivity and Exercise is Medicine. The programs that we have developed for adults and children with cancer, our spinal cord/paralysis, diabetes, and cycling for Parkinson’s are highly regarded, not only in the fitness industry but also in the medical and health care communities,” Mr. Alpert’s  statement read.

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